Review Primal Fear: Rulebreaker

Raw, heavy, and in your face, Germany's Primal Fear return with an album that kicks off 2016 with explosive force.

Tony Antunovich


By Tony Antunovich @tonyantunovich

There have been some interesting developments in the Primal Fear squad over the last few years. It all started back in the summer of 2014 when long-time drummer Randy Black left for greener pastures after spending eleven years in the band. Aquiles Priester (Angra) had a short run as Black's replacement, and then last June, former U.D.O. skinsman Francesco Jovino was welcomed into the ranks. On-again/off-again guitarist Tom Naumann had also made a return as a permanent full-time member. So now Primal Fear -- Ralf Scheepers (vocals), Alex Beyrodt (guitars), Naumann, Magnus Karlsson (guitars / keyboards), Mat Sinner (bass / vocals) and Jovino -- are currently no longer a quintet; they're a sextet with a secret weapon: a triple axe attack, just like Iron Maiden. You know what they say... two heads are better than one. Well, in this case, it's more like three guitars are better than two. Why's that, you ask? Here's a simple mathematic equation: Heavy Metal + more guitars = heavier Metal.

That brings Primal Fear's latest studio album, Rulebreaker, into the spotlight. You would think that after ten (now eleven) albums, a band like Primal Fear know what they're doing, and you would be right. Looking back on albums like Jaws of Death, Nuclear Fire, Seven Seals, New Religion, and so on, it's difficult to criticize the music Primal Fear have created during the last sixteen years because it's always been so digestible. Rulebreaker is no different. It's exactly what we would come to expect from a group of musicians that have maintained the qualified standard of being in a true Heavy Metal band. Primal Fear have progressed forward through their career sticking to what they do best, and that's delivering the proverbial goods.

Angels of Mercy

Putting this thing under the microscope, we see raw, unpolished, organic Heavy Metal made with the finest ingredients. At its core, Rulebreaker is chock full of pounding rhythms, heavily-distorted guitars, anthemic melodies and powerful vocals. Sounds like a delightful feast doesn't it? Well, it is. Tracks like the blistering back-to-back duo of fast opener Angels of Mercy and mid-tempo follow-up The End is Near are exemplary of what Primal Fear have created here. Intense, heavy and full of attitude doesn't even cut it. What's more is Scheepers' vocals haven't weakened or faded one single bit, and his range and tone are healthier than ever. The title track is a beefy rocker with some great chorus lines too, while In Metal We Trust -- despite its moderately corny title -- is a speed-driven powerhouse full of screaming guitars, and subject matter covering exactly what the name suggests. This is easily one of the album's best. The ten-and-a-half minute We Walk Without Fear is a fantastic mix of back-and-forth fast/slow time changes, and Constant Heart definitely takes the cake when it comes to the finest display of Scheepers' banshee-screaming wails. There is also one ballad in the mix: The Sky is Burning. Its beautiful arrangements and soaring chorus make it another one of the album's finest moments.

The End is Near

It's certainly obvious that Primal Fear put their all into this album, and that effort shines through in every direction. The songs just bleed passion, and each of them are enjoyable to listen to, over and over. One of the main advantages Primal Fear have over a lot of bands is the chemistry they have as a collective unit, something that has been built steadily over time. Another reason why Rulebreaker doesn't disappoint is the consistency of the songwriting/production between Sinner and Scheepers is still very strong. At the end of the day it really boils down to the same old rule that I've mentioned several times before: if it isn't broken, don’t fix it. Even though it doesn't break any new ground per se, Rulebreaker is the real deal, and if you're looking for something good and heavy to listen to, look no further.

Images courtesy of Frontiers Music.



The Rundown

Primal Fear make a strong statement with Rulebreaker, showing yet again that their tried-and-true metallic formula works effortlessly.

What's good?

  • Excellent song structure
  • Great production
  • Great guitar work
  • Scheepers' fantastic vocals
  • High re-listening value

What's not?

  • Some songs are a little bit repetitive.

Stand-out Tracks

  • The End is Near
  • In Metal We Trust
  • The Sky is Burning
  • Constant Heart
  • We Walk Without Fear